In emergency rooms throughout the United States, a series of three simple questions has replaced complex, computer-based calculations for assessing patients who are experiencing heart problems. The goal of asking questions is to probe until it’s clear the customer is satisfied. When applied to the sales process, the questions will differ based on your research of the prospect. They don’t need to be complex, but they must drill down to the heart of the issue.

As stated in part one, “How to create trust in the sales process,” it’s all about asking the right questions to create value, understanding and confidence. The simplicity of this approach belies the careful study that went into its development. It requires an investment of up-front time to understand the prospect, but it’s an investment well worth making.

The questions are key, and below are examples of questions that help create trust.

Getting started questions:

  • What problems are you experiencing?
  • What’s going on now that bothers you?
  • What do you want to accomplish and in what time frame?
  • What makes you dissatisfied with what you’re currently using?
  • What do you like? What don’t you like?
  • What do you expect from a sales rep?

Before meeting ends questions:

  • What’s better or worse than what you have now?
  • How did you feel about this meeting?
  • Is there anything that seems to be missing?
  • Do you feel you have adequate information?
  • Do you feel uneasy about anything?
  • Where would you like to go from here?
  • Are my answers sufficiently understandable and complete?
  • Did I probe sufficiently to understand your situation, your needs?
  • How can I improve my presentation?
  • Was I more helping or selling?

Then, what happens after the sale becomes the most important component in the sales process. Yet, salespeople often ignore it as they move on to the next opportunity and never look back, leaving the customer disappointed and even jilted. However, this is the critical point at which the customer becomes either emissary or enemy. This is when trust becomes real.
After the sale, follow up with questions, whether a week or a month later:

  • How do you feel about your purchase?
  • What have you been thinking about?
  • Do you have any doubts, issues or concerns?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Is there anything you would like to be different?
  • Is there anything you would like me to do?

If a feeling of trust has developed with the customer, be sure to ask for a referral.
Questions transform the selling process

As valuable as information is for a successful sales process, asking probing questions produces more than just information. It’s the most effective way to help customers become deeply involved in a dialogue — a conversation — that becomes an intriguing exercise in further discovery. It’s the way for the sales process to become an adventure, rather than a drag.

On top of that, it’s the way they come to recognize that their salesperson is serious, concerned and thorough. It’s through the questioning experience that customers become loyal partners, who are invested in the sales process rather than disengaged observers and passive participants.

The relentless task of asking questions also helps customers clarify their thinking, discover what they may have missed, revisit their assumptions and reconsider their opinions. It’s the way to build trust and get to the right results.

In effect, the salesperson’s role is to create a stage on which the decision-making process is acted out. Ultimately, it’s the way to help customers avoid making an unsatisfactory decision. They should never need to say, “I wish I had known that before I made my purchase.”

The task of today’s salesperson goes way beyond product knowledge and even solutions. It’s to help customers discover possibilities they may not have considered or even thought about.

It’s your questions that make the sale.

Graham, of GrahamComm, is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a monthly eNewsletter, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Reach him at johnrg31@me.com, (617) 774-9759 or through johnrgraham.com.

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